Pondera County, Montana 1921

While Pondera County is one of the youngest in the State of Montana, having been created April 1, 1919, it is likewise one of the most progressive, in several ways, and during its life as a separate county this locality has made rapid strides. It is situated in the northwestern part of Montana and was formed from several other counties, notably Teton, and has a land area of 1,658 miles, being eighty-four miles long east and west and from eighteen to thirty miles wide north and south. The Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains marks its western boundary, and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and Maria's River its northern boundary part of the way. This is one of the regions which still retains many of the old traditions of the West of the early days, although the tendency of recent years has been toward development of all the resources of the county along material lines, and twentieth century progress has largely subjugated the free-and-easy, open-handed methods of the past.

Pondera County takes its name from the Pondera River, which is found in the eastern part of the county. The principal streams in the western part, running north, are Birch Creek, Blacktail Creek and Dupuyer Creek, emptying into Maria's River. Well water is found at depths ranging from 20 to 200 feet, depending upon the locality. About 125,000 acres are under irrigation, the majority of this acreage being included in a Carey project of the Valier Land and Irrigation Company. The eastern two-thirds of the county is tillable, but the western portion of the county is mountainous and is valuable chiefly for stock raising and grazing. The soil is a black loam of considerable depth in most places. At the present time wheat, flax, oats, barley, potatoes and alfalfa are the chief crops, but the county is still in a state of early development, and as settlers on the irrigated lands are becoming better established, more diversification in crops is being noted. For one thing, more forage is being raised and dairying and stock raising are being included in the operations of the more progressive agriculturists.

These two vocations, farming and stock raising, are the chief occupations of the residents of Pondera County and will probably remain so, as the county for the greater part is best adapted to the pursuits of the soil. However, coal has been found in the western part of the county in sufficient quantities to make mining profitable, and wells are being drilled for oil on several formations which look promising. Naturally, should the latter mineral be discovered in sufficient quantities it may change the entire aspect of the industrial situation in the county. As to timber in Pondera County, some commercial wood is found in the western part of the county, and there are 121,616 acres of Pondera County land included in the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

Transportation facilities in Pondera County are highly acceptable. Through Burlington trains from Chicago to the Pacific coast use the Great Northern Railway through the eastern part of the county as a main line, and the Montana Western Railway, connecting with the Great Northern at Conrad, runs northwesterly to Valier, serving the irrigated district. The Geysers-to-Glaciers Highway, the Y-G-Bee Line Highway and the Banff-Grand Canyon Road traverse the county north and south, and local roads are well maintained. Irrigated land in Pondera County sells at $90 to $125 an acre. Non-irrigated farming lands range from $15 to $50 an acre, and non-improved, non-irrigated lands sell at from $10 an acre up.

For those who desire to settle permanently in the county, development of the agricultural and stock raising industries will prove the most interesting and profitable investment. For those who are visiting the community merely as tourists, good hunting and fishing are provided in the western part of the county, while the Blackfeet Indian Reservation on the north affords opportunity to study the western Indian in his native environment.


Conrad, the county seat of Pondera County, is the most important town in the county, and is the distributing center for a rich and growing locality. It has all modern improvements, including a high school accredited for four-year terms, in which, among other courses, are given manual training, domestic science, commercial and normal training. Valier, the second largest town, is a modern community and a growing one, with an accredited four-year-term high school, and is in the heart of the irrigated district. Other important community centers, all of which have good graded schools, are Dupuyer, the oldest town in the county; Brady, Williams, Manson, Ledger and Fowler. Williams is the headquarters of the Community Club of the irrigation project, the first organization of its kind in the county. The first Project Fair was held under the auspices of this club, and the first Pondera County Fair in connection with the second annual Project Fair. The county fair has been made a permanent annual event and is doing much to stimulate interest in modern methods of farming and stock growing.

Montana Counties 1921

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Source: Montana its Story and Biography, by Tom Strout, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, 1921

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